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Jordan: Ajlun, Amman, Aqaba, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Dead Sea, Jerash, Karak, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Pella & Umm Qays, Petra, Wadi Rum
Aqaba, Jordan: The obstruction
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Strategically located on the southern tip of Jordan, the port city of Aqaba is the gateway to Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In earlier days, traders had to cross Aqaba whilst travelling between Egypt and Syria, the trade route. Loosely translated, Aqaba means obstruction; which it was for the early trading community.
Far from being an obstruction, today Aqaba is greatly prized as Jordan’s window to the sea. Its sandy beaches and coral reefs are the most pristine on the Red Sea. The indigo coloured deep water offers abundant marine life. The location is a boon for diving. Vertical currents and sea breezes make diving cool and pleasant even during summers.
However, were to be tourists only for a couple of hours in Aqaba. After breakfast we left Wadi Rum. We were in Aqaba in just under an hour. Our first stop was at the beach just near the famous location that hoists the Jordanian flag. The flag pole would rank amongst the tallest in the world with the huge flag flying proud atop. The flag has become a landmark visible clearly from the shores of Egypt and Israel. During my visit, the flag mast was under maintenance; hence we were deprived of the majestic view.
From the coast we could clearly see the town of Elat in Israel, Taba in Egypt and the Sinai mountains. The Red Sea in between is 13 kms wide. 7 kms of it belongs to Jordan and 6 kms to Israel. After strolling around the beach for 30 minutes, we drove to city centre. We were on our own to explore the city for the next 90 minutes or so.
Aqaba is a duty free destination thus making it a very popular shopping destination. Dried fruits, spices, garments, souvenir shops and liquor stores are plenty. Since every tourist is allowed to purchase a bottle of liquor, free of duty, bottles of local and foreign liquors become popular shopping items. If you don’t have plans to take home some stuff yourself, you can still offer to be carriers to your drivers and guides… you would be saving them some money!
Shopping was not on my agenda. Instead, I used the available time to walk the main street and one of the city gardens. Aqaba has a population of only 70,000 but is thriving thanks to the tourists.
It was nearing lunch time. Locals take great pride to spend time and chat with friends in the city’s numerous tea and coffee shops. With a sheesha (hubble-bubble smoke) in hand, the locals can spend hours just smoking and sipping. I tried their coffee… an extremely strong and aromatic brew. The kick was good enough to see me drive through the desert to reach the Dead Sea.
Aqaba Image Gallery Photo viewer
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